Tourist at Home: seeing the familiar for the first time again

Have you ever had one of those friends with whom you can always just pick right up wherever you left off no matter how long it’s been? I’m fortunate enough to have a few of those friends and one of them recently came to visit me from the Northwest.

We met and became sister-friends while I was living in Oregon and this trip was her first introduction to Southeast Georgia. I was so excited to get to see her again and to get to be the one to help introduce her to the South that I have come to love.

For me the Southern experience has to include a few key elements: cuisine, culture, architecture and nature. With limited time to spend here (and I was asked to allow her some time to relax), it was important to pack as many of those elements as possible into every site. So, here are the places that made it on to the agenda for my friend’s visit.

The Coleman House Inn was a natural choice. Located in Swainsboro, the Coleman HouseColeman House offers a delicious array of Southern favorites on their lunch buffet and the setting merits a visit all on its own. The Victorian architecture is as much a feast for the eyes as the traditional Southern fare is for the taste buds.

Known as a “painted lady” this early American home is covered in gingerbread trim on the outside and filled with period architectural details on the inside. With friendly service, the requisite sweet tea and fried chicken, the Coleman House offers an authentic Southern experience that is sure to please the pickiest of pallets (the chicken was a big hit!).

IMG_5795Savannah as the quintessential Southern city, full of beauty, charm and grace, of course, made the “must see” list. The colorful historic homes, brick architecture, live oaks, Spanish moss, wrought iron, cobble stone streets, mysterious graveyards and city “squares” come together to create an intriguing and inviting environment to explore.

With its many parks and squares, Savannah offers a significant amount of green space; which along with the urban forest IMG_5794that lines streets throughout the city, brings a balance of serenity to the hustle and bustle of human and automotive traffic.

Though I often do mundane things in historic Savannah, like drive down Victory on my way to do buy some groceries or shop the Farmer’s Market in Forsythe Park – I can’t help but admire the beauty that I find there and I often feel that amidst the blandness of my day, I have had a brief dalliance in a magical place.

IMG_5684It would be unfortunate to visit the South and not take in at least one relic of the Civil War. And Fort Pulaski fits that bill nicely. It’s also just one of my favorite places to visit due to the beauty of its natural setting and the wonderful opportunities for interesting photographs that it provides.

The fort is located on Cockspur Island which offers wonderful views of the Savannah River, estuaries,  salt marshes and Tybee Island. The island proffers a beautiful array of flora and fauna and a variety of landscapes on which they are displayed. One has the opportunity to see everything from container ships making their way up the river to a herd of deer grazing near the fort. Whether its wildlife, landscapes or history that piques your interest, you’ll find it at Fort Pulaski.

Due to its proximity and the varied sites to see, I chose Jekyll Island for our South Georgia beach experience. Jekyll offers a variety of beach access points, each location with its own personality and unique offerings. Driftwood Beach is a photographer’s dream with plenty of nature’s sculptures which provide great photo opportunities. Great Dunes Park and Glory Beach offer long stretches of white sandy beach suitable for sunning, swimming or strolling along the Atlantic shore.  St. Andrews picnic area is a great place for catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.

In addition to its wonderful array of natural landscapes, Jekyll also offers a unique opportunity to take a look back at how the wealthy once vacationed on this island. The historic district fronts the Jekyll River and is home to a collection of late 19th century mansions.

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